"Talks with the Taliban are necessary for lasting peace," provincial information minister and ANP lawmaker Mian Iftikhar Hussain said at the end of January.
The army, which is considered the most powerful institution in the country, also backs the idea of talks, according to intelligence and counterterrorism officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they also were not authorized to talk to the media.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said Sunday that the group has responded positively to the government's offer of negotiations but is worried that officials aren't serious. He told reporters that the Taliban wanted the army and three prominent politicians to "guarantee" the talks, although he did not specify what that meant.
The politicians included the country's main opposition leader, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and the leaders of two hard-line Islamic parties, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Munawar Hasan.
The government has asked Rehman, head of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, to act as a mediator in talks with the Taliban, said ruling party officials. Rehman has said he is willing to do so as long as the government gives him total authority.
Ahsan also demanded the government release former Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan and six other militants he said would be part of the group's negotiating team.
Associated Press writers Rasool Dawar in Shaktoi and Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan contributed to this report.
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